REVIEW: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

1430789787569474338Everything about this book is what I honestly love about science fiction. Full of fascinating characters, complex species, intergalactic laws and society, this book was a wonderful read and it’s definitely one of my favourites of this year.

All you can do Rosemary – all any of us can do – is work to be something positive instead. That is a choice that every sapient must make every day of their life. The universe is what we make of it. It’s up to you to decide what part you will play.

I’m a sucker for complex societies and the possibilities of human life among other species. The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet looks at the possible political landscape of an intergalactic world, all within the small crew of a tunnelling ship. As Rosemary Harper, a young Martian human joins the motley crew of Wayfarer, hoping to run from her past, we too are swept into the world of 9 beautifully developed characters.

For the variety and elaborate design of Chambers’ world, the book is still remarkably easy to digest. I’m always slightly weary of the large science-fiction ‘epics’ for their hard to digest civilisations and they take forever to read and understand. Instead, Chambers presents and describes a galactic world that is still accessible and readable. It is light and easy to read yet still fully immersive. I sat down and basically didn’t move for hours until I polished it off.

It’s also the subtle things that make this book so intriguing and enjoyable. There’s the offhanded same-sex relationships, the exploration of polygamy, the exploration into stereotypes and the danger of comparing norms in other cultures. The inclusive and believable cultures aid to an exploration of our own, human society that we see as the ‘norm’, and Chambers challenges our views of our own ‘normal’ through the extremes of other species and civilisations. These subtle gestures add another layer to the story, a far more personal and individual one that explores more of our current society than we realise. It’s refreshing to have such varied and inclusive writing that doesn’t do it to ‘push the boat out’ or be ‘radical’. Instead, the simple inclusion of such aspects into the cultures that Chambers creates is both refreshing and beautifully done.

Although I feel, at times, Chambers didn’t get the pace of the book right, with the Hedra Ka ultimately hardly explored despite it being the aim of the Wayfarer crew, the book provides an immersive and exciting story that is definitely character-driven. The species, cultures and history are beautifully crafted into a book that I honestly didn’t want to end.

WHAT I LOVED: basically everything, characterisation, diversity of species

WHAT I DISLIKED: i didn’t want it to end!

Rating: five-stars


REVIEW: Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton


The world outside the observatory was silent, but the universe wasn’t.

I was so eager to get this book, and I did a little dance when I got the acceptance email from NetGalley and Orion Publishing, so thank you so much!

As always, Orion has pulled out another wonderful dystopian novel that really pulls at your heartstrings. Focusing on two people, a lone astronomer in the Arctic, and an astronaut returning from a trip to Jupiter, the focus is decidedly simple. What happens when the world goes silent? What happens when you think you’re the last person alive?

This focal concept leads to a relatively simplistic book, without the extremes and often exaggerated events and circumstances that comes along with dystopian fiction nowadays. Instead, we’re left with an honest look at two people, more interconnected than they think, with the weight of the world on their shoulders, but still decidedly removed from the population.

Both stories mirror and intertwine with each other, and Brooks-Dalton combines them beautifully. The novel’s sparse nature does not give way to a lack of feeling, and instead makes the story deeply personal, on such a small scale. Sully and Augustine present wonderful complex characters that bring the story to life.

At the end, I was left feeling slightly deflated. Part of me wanted to know what had happened to the rest of humanity, and instead the story finishes on quite an abrupt note. However, I do understand the effect, and I think it adds a level of poignancy and consideration to the end of the novel. And make sure you watch out for the last few lines. The simplicity and meaning of one word evokes a load of questions and wonderful tidbit at the end of the story to leave you mulling and questioning the events.

WHAT I LOVED: the remarkable simplicity, the beautiful cover, complex characters

WHAT I DISLIKED: the ending left me with so many questions???

Rating: four-stars

REVIEW: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

51tu1wgvi2bl-_sx326_bo1204203200_This book is so subtle and beautiful that it just flows, each person’s story intertwined into a narrative that spans the 20 years of an apocalyptic world.

Survival is insufficient.

And that’s really what makes this book. It’s realistic. It’s a dystopian world, but one that is fundamentally understandable, without the drama and the extremes of typical survival fiction. Instead, there’s the intensity in the simplicity of a world with only 0.1% of the population, and everything they knew has dissolved into nothing. There is no hyperbole or overly extreme events. But it’s still as intense and exciting as anything else in this kind of genre.

Mandel writes with inter-connectivity at the heart of it all. Despite the lack of the internet, or the phone service, or social media, there’s still a connection that spans people’s lives and survives the apocalypse. A well-thumbed comic, a paperweight, the fleeting memory of an actor. Their lives, all interconnected before, are equally as connected after. Arthur, Clark, Jeevan and Kirsten are intertwined by their memories, their history, and their actions. At first, the abruptness of the jumps is slightly confusing, but soon you understand the narrative and how Mandel writes.

This book is honestly a breath of fresh air, in a genre that has so recently dominated markets. It’s realism and dystopia rolled into one, and the beautiful writing makes a wonderful read. The Guardian calls it ‘dreamily atmospheric’, and it’s a perfect way of describing it.

A heartily 5 stars from me, and I’ll definitely look into her other works.

WHAT I LOVED: the writing style, the interconnected narrative, the beautiful cover


Rating: five-stars

REVIEW: The Communication Room by Adam Aresty

cover88452-mediumThank you to NetGalley and Strange Fictions Press for a great read!

This novella really packed a punch and had me hooked until I’d finished it.

What really stands out in this book is how clever the narrative is. From one man and one room, we see the unfolding of an alien invasion that roughly followed that of our own history, but slanting it and changing it. We gain a history that is uncanny, all from a single point with a single perspective. From this, we don’t need a long rambling science fiction novel. Instead we get a fresh novella that is simple yet complex.

The pinpoints in history allow us to see the development and understanding of the invasion and the ‘conscripts’ that take over humans’ bodies. But at the same time, we’re brought back to humanity on a knife’s edge, about to fall and become no-more, from the man who could potentially be the last real human.

As any hasty exploration into a science-fiction world, I want more. I want to know more about the species. I want to know more about what happens afterwards. The ending is surprisingly blunt, and I’m left with a small sense of fulfillment. But the text works as a novella, and it really uses the shortness of the story to maximum effect. It packs a punch, and it does it quickly.

WHAT I LOVED: fast paced action, interesting narrative style

WHAT I DISLIKED: could have done with more depth

Rating: three-stars

REVIEW: Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

annihilation_by_jeff_vandermeerWe were neither what we had been nor what we would become once we reached our destination.

To put a bit of context to this, I have just finished up a module called ‘The Weird Tale’, that looks at horror and science fiction short stories that are primarily concerned with the ‘weird’: something outside the realm of our understanding that is decidedly not explained. Through that module, I encountered a lot of Jeff VanderMeer, who writes extensively on weird fiction.

Hence, when I picked up his book, I had a bit of an understanding of what I was getting into. From the synopsis, I admit I was expecting a bit more concrete structure, or at least a lot more science. Part of me was expecting ‘The Martian’-esque writing, but more focused on science fiction. It decidedly isn’t that all.

Instead we’re thrust into a narrative with very little information and even less understanding. Following an expedition party into the mysterious Area X, everything is decidedly removed from our understanding. Mysterious towers and odd groans at night, and odd team members, it is definitely weird.

Others might be frustrated by the lack of concrete narrative or world building, but I really admire VanderMeer’s writing. It’s almost on the cusp of Lovecraftian: an unknown entity that is more than we could ever understand or imagine. And that’s the power that this novel brings: that great sense of unease and the questions we continually have over the course of reading it.

This book is ultimately clever, working on very real worries and suspicions that we all have. I admit, I would have liked a bit more understanding by the end, but this intrigue will definitely lead me to read the rest of the trilogy!

WHAT I LOVED: the weird, beautiful cover, FEMALE CHARACTERS

WHAT I DISLIKED: could have been longer!

Rating: four-stars

Charity Shop & Heffers Book Haul!

Every time I’m back from university me and my mum always go to Emmaus, that are a charity with a room full of books, all at 75p each. We usually come out with a massive bag of books between us, and I’m managed to get some amazing books there. So here’s my haul from my trip earlier in the week!

24861532Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime by Val McDermid

Synopsis: Val McDermid is one of the finest crime writers we have, whose novels have captivated millions of readers worldwide with their riveting narratives of characters who solve complex crimes and confront unimaginable evil. In the course of researching her bestselling novels McDermid has become familiar with every branch of forensics, and now she uncovers the history of this science, real-world murders and the people who must solve them.

Thoughts: This has been on my to read list for a while, and I’e been meaning to get more non-fiction under my belt. As a lover of several cop/pathologist tv shows, this is a perfect book to delve into!

Dot Robot by Jason Bradbury9362678

Synopsis: ‘Congratulations, Jackson. Welcome to MeX.’ billionaire Devlin Lear, founder of the top-secret defence force MeX, has been watching Jackson Farley. He knows he has found a digital genius.

Along with three other brilliant gamers from different corners of the world, Lear needs Jackson to join him and stop the criminal heist of the century. And all by the power of the most highly advanced, state-of-the-art robots ever invented.

Are Jackson and the MeX recruits as good as Lear thinks? And how does Jackson know quite who to trust when they can never meet face-to-face?

Thoughts: Gaming and computers and stuff immediately screams ‘Ready Player One’ at me so I just had to pick it up. I’ve been trying ever since I read it to find something similar. It probably won’t live up, but it sounds interesting!

Review to come!

7438238Pandaemonium by Christopher Brookmyre

Synopsis: The senior pupils of St Peter’s High School are on a retreat to a secluded outdoor activity centre, coming to terms with the murder of a fellow pupil through counselling, contemplation, candid discussion and even prayer – not to mention booze, drugs, clandestine liaisons and as much partying as they can get away with.

Not so far away, the commanders of a top-secret military experiment, long-since spiralled out of control, fear they may have literally unleashed the forces of Hell.

Two very different worlds are about to clash in an earthly battle between science and the supernatural, philosophy and faith, civilisation and savagery.

Thoughts: I’ve just started this, and I’m intrigued by the opening pages. The writing is a lot more denser than I expected from the synopsis, but it’s definitely an interesting opening. On some more research, it seems more horror/gore than I usually read so it will be intriguing to find how I deal with that!

9339435Lost Fleet: Dauntless by Jack Campell

Synopsis: The Alliance has been fighting the Syndic for a century, and losing badly. Now its fleet is crippled and stranded in enemy territory. Their only hope is Captain John “Black Jack” Geary – a man who has emerged from a century-long hibernation to find himself heroically idealized beyond belief. Now, he must live up to his own legend.

Thoughts: I’ve seen the Lost Fleet series around bookstores for years, and it was pure chance that I picked up the first book (after a quick check on Goodreads!). I’ve been dying for a more military-type sci-fi book since reading the likes of Ender’s Game, so I’m definitely looking forward to this one!

I finished my week with a day trip to Cambridge, and spent a good few hours round the wonderful Heffers’ store. I’ve never been to it before, but it was like geek heaven, with an amazing selection of books. Plus a sneaky 3 for 2 deal that I couldn’t help but take advantage of. Hence the subsequent buys!

91714Civil War #1-7 by Mark Millar

Synopsis: The landscape of the Marvel Universe is changing, and it’s time to choose: Whose side are you on? A conflict has been brewing from more than a year, threatening to pit friend against friend, brother against brother – and all it will take is a single misstep to cost thousands their lives and ignite the fuse.

Thoughts: I’ve been a big fan of MCU since it began, and with the upcoming release of Captain America: Civil War, it seemed like the perfect time to settle down and actually get into the comic. Seeing as the only other comics I’ve read are Batwoman, and Spiderman’s Civil War comic, my exploration into comic books has been pretty limited. I finished reading it yesterday, and just a heads up: I’ve changed my tune and am now Team Tony, just massively against how they did things in the comic.

Review to come!


Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Synopsis: An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.

Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all. A novel of art, memory, and ambition, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.

Thoughts: I’ve heard about this book so much recently, and I’ve been dying to get my hands on a copy for a good few months. After manically running round Heffers trying to find it, I was so pleased when I managed to find a copy. I’ve definitely been leaning towards the more sensual, complex dystopian novels (see The Book of Strange New Things), so this seems perfect. I’ve heard some really great reviews too!

24956528The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

Synopsis: Somewhere within our crowded sky, a crew of wormhole builders hops from planet to planet, on their way to the job of a lifetime. To the galaxy at large, humanity is a minor species, and one patched-up construction vessel is a mere speck on the starchart. This is an everyday sort of ship, just trying to get from here to there.

But all voyages leave their mark, and even the most ordinary of people have stories worth telling. A young Martian woman, hoping the vastness of space will put some distance between herself and the life she‘s left behind. An alien pilot, navigating life without her own kind. A pacifist captain, awaiting the return of a loved one at war.

Set against a backdrop of curious cultures and distant worlds, this episodic tale weaves together the adventures of nine eclectic characters, each on a journey of their own.

Thoughts: I picked this up on a whim, due to a pretty cover and whisperings of it over Goodreads. I hope its as detailed and complex as the synopsis suggests. It sounds rather character-driven, which is definitely fun in sci-fi. So I can’t wait.

I’ve just realised that the majority of these books are science fiction/dystopian, so I definitely have a theme running through my preferences right now. And this post was far longer than I expected!

But hopefully I can get cracking on a lot of these. I probably won’t do another book haul for a while, considering I’m back to uni soon and that means basically no money. Although maybe a few charity shops might be in order!

Unfortunately, my reading might also tail off, with a busy few months ahead and 12000 words of essays to write. But hopefully I’ll fit it in in my relaxing time and I’ll be able to get through several of these sometime soon!

Looking back on March!

I started this blog this month, so it’s been a really great experience getting stuck in, writing reviews and getting some wonderful followers both here and on Twitter. As for Twitter, I started tweeting in late Feb and I now have over 120 followers already! It’s also been a continuation of my NetGalley introduction, and I’ve read some great books.

I’ve always wanted to properly start up a book blog, and I’m honestly surprised it’s going so well. The book blogging community on Twitter are amazing, and having conversations with authors and publishing houses has been an exciting bonus that I never expected. Hopefully my blog will continue to grow and improve and I hope to write more and more posts.

I’ve also been contacted by publishers and publicists alike from NetGalley. I was lucky enough to be part of the cover reveal for Laini Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer, which was great fun and I honestly can’t wait for it to come out!

Book wise, I read 9 books, most from NetGalley, and mostly sci-fi. There’s the odd literary fiction and poetry dotted in there, but my life has definitely been taken up by the wonders of space travel and new technology over the last month. Usually, I’m not so focused into one genre, but I’ve got the sci-fi bug and it won’t leave!

The books I’ve read:

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel (NetGalley, Penguin)
The Phoenix Descent by Chick Grossart (NetGalley, 47 North)
Future Shock by Elizabeth Briggs (NetGalley, Albert Whitman and Company)

Queer Wars by Dennis Altman and Jonathon Simons (review to come)
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (ebook, Anchor Books)
The Wolf in the Attic by Paul Kearney (NetGalley, Rebellion)

Quarter Life Poetry by Samantha Jayne (NetGalley, Grand Central Publishing)
Beacon 23 by Hugh Howey (ebook, Broad Reach Publishing)
The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber (hardback, Canongate)
You can’t bury them all by Patrick Woodcock (NetGalley, ECW Press)

My favourite was definitely The Book of Strange New Things, closely followed by The Phoenix Descent. Both I gave five stars to, which is a relatively rare thing for me to do.

Onto April, and I hope new and exciting things happen! I’ve got a few NetGalley books waiting to be read, and I’m planning on starting a weekly blog post or two. ‘Friday Finds’ is definitely interesting me, because I add so many books to my to-read lists. But I’ll be starting that up soon.

Overall, March has been an amazing month full of new things and fun adventures. Can’t wait to start my second month as a book blogger!

REVIEW: The Medusa Chronicles by Stephen Baxter and Alastair Reynolds

Thank you to NetGalley and Orion Publishing Group for accepting me for this ARC!

cover86164-mediumI came at this novel at a bit of a disadvantage. I haven’t read Meetings with Medusa or any of Arthur C. Clarke’s work (it’s something I’m hoping to remedy soon). However, although it was a bit of an overload of information at the beginning, it quickly didn’t matter and I fell into the wonderful, political and fantastical world of Howard Falcon, half human, half cyborg.

‘Well – what is existence but an endless, ultimately futile delaying of the inevitable?’

What I really loved was the breadth of this novel. Although the time jumps were a bit confusing at the start, we get to see the impact of human space travel and the extent to which we go to to war. Interlinked with a 1969 space story that shows the beginning human space exploration, the sheer amount of action and development we get pushes this book to epic and fantastical proportions.

Using Howard Falcon as the narrator really allowed a more objective and different view to what typically could have been a human-focused story. Instead, the half human half cyborg serves as a third party by which to explore the wider solar system and the political landscape. I really liked him as a character, and the way he was linked to all aspects of the narrative made him a great central character.

I admit, I don’t go often go for such ‘other-worldly’ sci-fi, with the presence of Martians, ‘simps’, and the Machines. But Baxter and Reynolds create a wonderful political landscape that questions the impact of technological advances, robot autonomy and the lengths humans will go to save the race. At times I felt like it lagged slightly, and it did take me longer to read than usual, but it didn’t put me off.

I have Baxter’s The Long Earth on my bookshelves somewhere, which I will undoubtedly read some point soon. But if you like a political story combined with the effects of human interplanetary space travel, this book is definitely for you.

WHAT I LOVED: the politics, the idea of a wider political landscape in the solar system

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE: jumps were confusing, slow in some places


COVER REVEAL: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

I’ve had the pleasure of being contacted by Hodder & Stoughton about Laini Taylor’s new book, Strange the Dreamer. For people not so familiar with Taylor’s work, she wrote the bestselling series Daughter of Smoke and Bone! So with great excitement, the cover and prologue are being revealed today!

Personally, I’m really looking forward to it. It has a librarian as a main character, and the mystery and intrigue surrounding it is keeping me on my toes. In case you haven’t seen the short description we’ve gotten, here it is:

the aftermath of a war between gods and men
a mysterious city stripped of its name
a mythic hero with blood on his hands
a young librarian with a singular dream
a girl every bit as perilous as she is imperilled
alchemy and blood candy, nightmares and godspawn, moths and monsters, friendship and treachery, love and carnage.

Continue reading

REVIEW: You can’t bury them all by Patrick Woodcock

Thank you so much to NetGalley and ECW Press for giving me access to this book early!

cover78464-mediumI don’t usually read this type of poetry. I favor spoken word, and that may be why certain aspects of this collection didn’t really grip me.

First off, however, Patrick Woodcock’s style of writing is wonderful. It’s deep and complex and very emotive. In every sentence there are rich vibrant descriptions and comparisons. The strong imagery really makes these poems readable. Focusing on actions rather than feelings for the majority of the collection, his use of metaphors and similes really shines through.

All of this was read in lines and curves, dots and dashes.
I learned that sometimes art and language is best when juvenile and undressed.

I think what caught me out was the location-based nature of the poetry. The poetry that really captures me is often linked to the things I’m passionate about (LGBT history and rights, feminism etc), so the worlds of Iraq, the Northwest Territories and Azerbaijan were a very different and new type of exploration for me.

Nevertheless, I am aware that the majority of my distance from them is just due to personal preference. If you like vivid narration of the realities of the world, then this collection is definitely for you.

WHAT I LOVED: the strong, vibrant description

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE: just isn’t the poetry for me

Rating: three-stars